Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

July 21, 2013

Students without citizenship face struggles in Indiana

The fight for an education continues.

Angel Ramos, 20, moved to Indiana with his parents and younger sister from Uruapan, Michoacán, Mexico, when he was 8.

His family moved to the U.S. for typical reasons: to work and build a better life for him and his sister, Ramos said.

He attended U.S. schools beginning in the fourth grade and graduated from Kokomo High School in 2010.

Ramos now works with his father as an independent contractor, mostly making furnishings for houses, such as door frames and cabinets.

Because it’s just the two of them, they don’t make much money, and definitely not enough to send Angel to college since House Bill 1402 passed in 2011.

HB 1402 requires undocumented students like Angel to pay out-of state tuition.

Before the bill, tuition at Indiana University Kokomo was manageable at $198 per credit hour.

“It was just enough money that me and my dad could work together and pay as we went,” Ramos said. “It would be hard, but we would be able to do it. He would work, and I would study and help him out.”

He got as far as attending orientation and signing up for classes to study fine arts at the local college before the bill passed and reality hit him like a smack in the face.

“I started getting really excited … But, one night I came home, turned on the news, and there were these kids my age at the Statehouse, protesting a new bill signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels,” he said. “Later on I found out that that law prevented me from getting in-state tuition.”

Now Angel would have to pay IU Kokomo’s out-of state rate of $563 per credit hour if he wanted to attend school.

“When I went up to my dad and talked to him, he just looked at me and said, ‘We can’t afford that,’” Ramos said.

He was devastated.

He feels just as American as anyone who was born in the U.S., he said, and he doesn’t understand why he should be forced to pay out-of state tuition in a state where he has lived the majority of his life.

“I wasn’t born here, but I was raised here,” he said. “I went to American schools, went on field trips, had American friends, watched American movies, and I stood up every morning at school and said the Pledge of Allegiance.”

For students like Ramos, HB 1402 made college two to three times more expensive and much harder to pay for, especially since such students also are ineligible for state or federal financial aid.

When the bill went into effect July 1, 2011, students had two options: pay out-of state tuition or drop out and wait for Congress to pass immigration reform or apply for Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals work permit policy.

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